How To Find The Best Online College Programs For Veterans

What are the best online college programs for veterans? That may be a question too broad to answer on an individual basis, but there ways to narrow down your choices considerably. The most important thing to do before searching for an online school is to answer a few questions.

USAF photo by Senior Airman James Hensley.

What Kind Of Learning Works Best For Me?

Some types of online learning may involve nothing more elaborate than a set of videos, required reading, periodic check-ins with the instructor via email or chat, and the usual round of exams and/or papers. But other types of online instruction can simulate the classroom in every way except the physical location.

Some students need immediate help or feedback from the instructor to understand topics or procedures not fully understood during the course of online learning, so the “almost a classroom” model can be the most beneficial. Others may find self-paced and self-directed research and problem solving more rewarding, and these learners will get more out of a less hands-on approach to the virtual classroom.

Learning How To Learn Online

Deciding what works for you ahead of time is best. Some schools have online questionnaires that can help you get a head start on deciding if online learning is right for you. Minnesota State University offers one such screening quiz. Take the Minnesota State University Distance Learning Screening Quiz

Another quiz is available from the University of Colorado at Denver

The University of Missouri also has a basic quiz called: Is online learning right for you?

These are all preliminary assessments of the habits, attitudes, and work ethic you have which may or may not be right for a distance learning situation. But for some, taking a quiz like the ones listed here isn’t enough to be truly convincing. If you aren’t quite sure, consider trying on different kinds of online learning via community college or public university online classes.

Some colleges offer summer classes that are nearly 100% online, requiring only an in-person “check-in” occasionally during the course. Others may require no campus visits at all. Trying out a single online class is a fairly risk-free way to find out what’s best for you. Some community colleges act as feeder schools for public universities or other types of colleges-you may be able to take a course that will directly benefit your higher education goals with a bit of extra planning.

Finding the right online program isn’t as simple as picking the school that has the right kinds of classes for your needs. In your research into online learning you will find short-term intensive bootcamps all the way up to Master’s degree programs and more. How far you want to go depends on your goals and your ability to fund your education. School selection is just as important for online learning as it is for in-residence education.

Choosing A School

Photo by Lance Cpl. Donovan Lee.

These days, selecting an online program can be as challenging as finding a suitable public or private university. Which type of college is right for you? A public university which accepts the GI Bill® and may also accept applicable state-funded veteran education benefits? There are Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits for online students. A for-profit college with an accelerated program that puts you into the workforce more quickly than a four-year degree? How about a non-degree program that gives you certification in specific skill sets? Narrowing down what you expect out of your school will go a long way toward helping you decide on the right institution for you.

Bootcamp-style learning programs now available (and sometimes funded by GI Bill benefits) may be a good choice if you are a highly motivated self-starter who understands that networking and personal investment are key components of fitting into a new, demanding, and highly competitive technical field.

But are these available online? Over the course of time the answer may turn out to be “yes” but at the time of this writing, for certain career fields such as coding, app development, and related skills, you may be hard pressed to find exactly what you are looking for without some in-residence requirement.

Online certificate programs NOT billed as “bootcamp” learning may still require the same kinds of motivated involvement. It’s easier to relax into some kinds of highly skilled learning over the long term because a nursing program, for example, requires a specific amount of hours and a commitment that is generally longer than three to nine months. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of a learning environment that challenges you to get up to speed very quickly, you may need to consider a different type of online learning or try attending some traditional classes in person before committing to a full degree or certificate.

Talk To A Live Human

You may find that speaking to an admissions rep at several schools could help you a great deal. How does the school handle “absences” from online learning? What happens if you have technical difficulties that prevent you from completing an exam or project? Admissions representatives can help you determine which schools might be the friendliest in these areas in addition to the usual course requirement and sign-up details.

Try contacting the school’s office of Student Affairs and ask to speak with the veterans’ representative if one is available, or talk to an admissions counselor or representative.

You should also consider looking on Facebook or other social media for groups and communities that are created specifically for the graduates of the school of your choice, in the program of your choice. You may be quite surprised at what you learn from talking to current and former students online in these communities.

You’ll hear the good, the bad, and everything in between; remember to keep all comments good and bad in perspective. If you hear consistent praises or complaints about a program, chances are good there is at least some grain of truth to them, but there’s no real substitute for your own experiences.


About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


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